You Can Save Thousands With a Green Home

A “green” home is a home that is highly energy efficient, has excellent indoor environment, and is built to exceed local building code. Considering this, does not mean that these homes cost more to build than a person could save on energy costs? Absolutely not! A green home is affordable to build and can save a homeowner in thousands of energy costs annually. And there are thousands in tax incentives to take advantage of.

First, planned right and built well, a green home can be built for no more than regular construction, and has greater market value when it is completed. It is important to have a builder that has built green homes before, not just one that has added green features onto existing construction. The latter has no experience with the type of building techniques that lower building costs. An experienced home builder will know that getting LEED's engineers involved in the process and restructuring the process of building to reduce waste and energy are key to starting the project off right. In addition, an experienced home builder will be able to make valuable suggestions to the potential homeowner about trade-offs in costs and energy efficiency and apply his practical experience to estimates of energy savings.

Energy savings savings can be substantial. Using the weather and energy costs in Illinois as an example, and comparing an affordable green home to conventional home with forced air heating and central air-conditioning, a green home can save you around 75% on electricity, by using a combination of solar panels , landscaping, and Energy Star rated appliances and water heater and substituting central air with geothermal applications, over 90% on natural gas by using alternative heating methods, and 60% on water / sewer by implementing gray water recapture. Typical annual bills of nearly $ 3,000 per year could be lowered to $ 700 or less – a savings of $ 2,100 per year. Of course, these figures are for illustrative purposes only. Your actual savings depends on your electricity usage, the size of the home, the number of people you have living in your home, the number of solar panels you use, and the precise options you select for your green home.

And green homes look like regular homes inside and out, are maintenance friendly, and fun to own.

With tax incentives in the thousands, energy savings worth thousands, and greater market value, building and living in a green home is an affordable option for everyone.

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Green Homes – Ugly Ducklings Or Beautiful Swans?

A “green” home is a home that is highly energy efficient, has excellent indoor environment, and is built to exceed local building codes. So are they ugly then? Look like the Jetson's space-age house? So obvious they would stick out like a sore thumb? No. No. and No. A green home looks just like conventional construction inside and out.

The beginning of a green home is a set of plans that starts with a conventional floor plan and elevations. Then an experienced green home building will modify the systems of the house to accommodate green home features and energy saving devises – A geothermal system rather than air conditioning; in-floor heating rather than a conventional natural gas forced air system; a gray water recapture system; energy efficient windows, doors, appliances, and water heater; and high quality, high 'R'rated insulation.

The best part is that these systems work very different from their conventional counterparts, but are invisible to the homeowner and their guests. The home will be a queter and cleaner without the dust and noise of conventional forced air heating. And the energy cost savings are substantial, depending on your particular situation.

Energy Star appliances sip electricity but are similar or identical to your current appliances. And cabinets and trim can be identical to conventional houses or use recycled material or earth-friendly woods for a more eco-friendly alternatives.

The cladding and shingles on the outside of the home are no different than a conventional home making the home blend in to its neighborhood seamlessly. However, the market value is probably higher than the surrounding homes due to its energy saving advantages and tax incentives.

So a green home is a beautiful swan, not an ugly duckling, at all!

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What is Eco-Friendly Construction?

As eco-friendly properties grow to be more well-liked, it's useful for home Buyers to be able to identify sustainable home building resources for themselves. Prepared with this awareness, you can make vital decisions between one property and another based on just how carefully construction has taken into account the weight of protecting the environment. You can also identify which properties will save you funds when it comes to fuel costs and making repairs. And if you plan to put up additional buildings or extensions to your property, you'll know how to go about it in a responsible way.

Just what constitutes a sustainable building material for the properties you're considering will be based on your geographical location. Preferably, such materials should be offered locally to lessen the environmental impact on transportation. They should originate from renewable sources, such as sustainable forest plants, and the processing and manufacturing involved in preparing them for construction use should be efficient and non-hazardous. They should also be intended to last for a long time, reducing the need for repairs and replacements.

Superior quality sustainable building materials are not only excellent for the environment, they're good for your health you. In order to take full advantage of their staying power, they should be water resistant, which will also inhibit the growth of mold and rot, which can harm your health. Using natural materials such as wood or stone means you will not have to be concerned about toxic and carcinogenic emissions such as those emitted by some petroleum-based building materials and asbestos. If builders used recycled or reclaimed materials in the construction of a property, you can use air-monitoring equipment to check the interior air quality and make certain no problems have arisen as a result. For many construction businesses, such tests are standard on eco-friendly homes, making them a better bet than ordinary properties. And most durable materials are designed for easy cleaning so that you will not have to use to use strong chemical cleaning products which can potentially harm both you and the environment.

Sadly, because sustainable building is becoming so popular, there are now materials on the market made by manufacturers that are deliberatively deceptive about their products origins. So if you're purchasing your own, it's important to make sure they're certified. Ideally, an independent third party should have done this, supervising the process from their production to their arrival in store. This is important both for sustainable harvested materials and for reclaimed materials.

Once you begin looking into sustainable building materials, you'll find that there are all sorts of intriguing options out there, including traditional cedar or stone, lightweight but unexpectedly strong bamboo or cork with wool-based cavity filling providing a tremendously efficient substitute to standard insulating materials, and linoleum or terracotta tiling perfect for floors. Materials such as these can be used to craft a home that is good for the environment, good for you, cheap to run and truly individual. You really can not lose.

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What? No Cars?

Bicyclecity Promotes an unusual community – unusual by the standards of people born in our society in the last 100 years, at least. No cars. No trucks. Nothing with an internal combustion engine will be permitted past this proposed city limits. The promise is something that seems strange to people who have lived by the car, but is starting to get more attention, especially now, when gas prices are significantly rising and obesity levels are starting to show significant impact on the overall health of North American society .

The car free city is not just built with the idea that once there are no cars, everything will be fine. Plans are in motion to build homes and business buildings with ecologically friendly and energy efficient materials. Home styles range from densely constructed apartments in the inner city to modest single-family homes farther out. No McMansions here … these homes will be conservative in space and the resources they require to provide people with heat, light and power.

The layouts proposed for this community differ in details but are all roughly circular – with “spokes” that allow residents farther away from the city center direct access. There will be an emphasis on public green space. For those who wish to have or need cars to access the world beyond the city, specifically designed car parks are being proposed on the outskirts of the community. Outside the city limits, organic farms would provide the city with fresh fruits, vegetables and animal products.

Proponents of this kind of community cite the pollution caused by automobiles, the space automakers take up within a city and the danger to life and limb caused by automobile accidents. No automobiles is one solution for obesity and health problems related to lack of exercise – if one wants to go anywhere in a car free city, one must walk, bike or take public transportation. The high expenses of a car could be mostly or completely avoided by the close proximate of work and play.

There are challenges to be met in the car free city. The ban on automobiles can create difficulties with transportation of heavy / dangerous goods and access to transportation for the handicapped. Most people do not object to exemptions for emergency vehicles, but when it comes to personal vehicles for the elderly, injured, or infirm, the line becomes fuzzy. Some people believe that there should only be electric or other alternative fuel-powered vehicles allowed anywhere in the city. Non fossil-fueled public transport is being proposed to resolve most of the transportation issues.

The car free city has, so far, been only a consideration. In the face of the changes society will need to make in order to meet the needs of its population, though, this kind of community may not be too far away.

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Display Energy Certificates

Since 1st October 2008 public buildings in the UK over 1,000m2 must display a Display Energy Certificate prominently at all times. These Certificates were introduced by the British Government in response to the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive which all EU member states were required to implement by January 2009.

Display Energy Certificates are designed to promote the improvement of the energy performance of buildings. They are based upon actual energy usage of a building and increase transparency about the energy efficiency of public buildings. The certificate looks similar to the energy labels provided on new cars and electrical appliances such as refrigerators and freezers – it uses a similar scale for energy efficiency, ie from A to G with A being the most efficient and G the least. The A3 sized certificate is valid for one year and is accompanied by an Advisory Report (AR) which is valid for seven years. The advisory report is designed to help building owners occupiers to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings so that future Display Energy Certificates show a better rating. ARs do not need to be displayed, but must be available

Display Energy Certificates and ARs must be undertaken by an accredited energy assessment using Government approved software. In order to produce the Display Energy Certificate the energy assessor needs to know the gross internal floor area of ​​the building and the operating hours together with actual meter readings or consignment notes for all fuels used during the year of assessment. It is, therefore, very important for owners and occupiers of public buildings over 1,000m2 to maintain good records of fuel used. If the energy assessor does not have access to sufficient and sufficient information then the software will generate a default G rating!

The penalty for failing to display a Display Energy Certificate where required is GBP500 and the penalty for not having an advisory report available is GBP1,000.

In the future the Government will extend the requirement to smaller public buildings and sometimes to large privately owned buildings which the public have access to, such as supermarkets. It is, however, certainly right that the public sector should lead the way in making buildings more energy efficient, thereby reducing the burden of high fuel costs on the tax payer and helping to reduce Britain's carbon footprint with a view to meeting the ambitious targets that the Government has set itself.

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Financing Unusual, Eco-Friendly and Just Plain Weird Homes

There's a lot of attention being given to eco-friendly homes, 'alternative' homes and other dwellings that are not your average single-family home. You can find lots of information on the Internet, in books and magazines. However, one thing you might have a fair amount of trouble finding is an institution that will finance your alternative home venture, especially in today's depressed economy. There have been a number of individuals who, when seeking financing, found that anything that was not a standard 'stick-built' house was automatically in no-man's land when it came to the 'free mortgage market'.

For an interesting story of one couple's search for financing, head over to and see what they tried before they found a financial institution (a local credit union) to loan them the money for their dome house. Since the fact that 'green' homes are held up as the houses of the future, there still remains a sizeable amount of banks, credit unions and other lenders that will not take risks on them.

Another stumbling block for alternative housing is that institutions want to see comparable home values. It's kind of hard to produce comparables when you're embarking on an alternative housing project. However, this is another reason that lenders shy away from this kind of endeavor.

The three 'musts':

First of all, your credit has to be very good for a financial institution to even glance your way. Getting your credit up after a setback is not within the scope of this article, but there are plenty of ideas out there for you to explore. The better your credit is, the more likely your chances of a bank taking a second look at your proposal.

Second, have very clear plans about your building. It is not enough to say, “Oh this goes over here and we're gonna put that over there.” You need blueprints, sources for your materials, qualified contractors (if you're installing electrical and plumbing), and, if you're not, explain what you're going to do to heat and light the house. You also need to be extremely aware of municipal bylaws for dwellings as well as any standards you need to meet. Gather all the data you can on your house, comparable structures and the construction process.

Third, be aware of what insurance you need and how you're going to obtain said insurance. Some companies do not cover homes that are not provided with conventional sources of heat and light or are made out of materials not covered by their standard policies.

There are lenders out there that finance alternative housing, but in the case that you can not find one in your area or if all you can find is a lender who charges you an exorbitant amount of interest for a loan on an alternative lodging, here are some ideas:

Try a local institution. Local credit unions and other lenders may be more flexible than the larger national and international banks. If they have strong roots in the community and take a personal interest in what's happening around your town, they might be interested in financing an exciting new project that elicits strong interest from the public.

Search out other alternative home owners to get an idea of ​​what their experience at valuation was like. If you can get valuations of any alternative housing, even if it's not in your area, it's at least something you can use to go on. Also, other alternative home owners may have contacts or ideas that you can use to find lenders.

Publicize your search for financing. Green is 'in' and many news outlets could find this a good story to cover. Lenders may feel better about investing in a 'human interest story' instead of (to them) some random person wanting to live in a hole in the ground.

Consider private lending. There are online resources, such as where you can post your story, provide potential investors your story and hope that enough decide to invest in your endeavor. Private lending is generally more expensive than a mortgage, but less expensive than most credit cards.

The fight to get alternative housing legitimized by the real estate and mortgage industry is an uphill battle. However, the more alternative dwellings built, the more votes will be raised for equality among home owners – whether that home is a conventional one or something a little different, a little greener and quite a little better for the Earth.

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LEEDS Certification Should Take Into Consideration Earthquake Costs to Rebuild

More and more environmentally friendly green builders are joining the ranks of the socially responsible building industry. Great stuff, and why not build more energy efficient buildings, with materials that are made with the least pollution or impact to the environment? Sure, that all makes sense.

Even if you are not an environmentalist, you can obviously see the value of increased efficiency and less pollution, that's all well and good. Still, I've seen builders use less steel and concrete in their foundations by putting more rock underneath and such for the base. Okay, but the crushing of rock takes energy, machinery, fuel and has an impact during the transportation phase.

And even if you can justify that or call it an over decrease in pollution doing it that way, well what about this weaker foundation cracking during an earthquake causing the building to be a total loss? If the building is a total loss because it could not withstand a “biggie” earthquake, then you have to destroy it, haul away the debris, and rebuild it again. Thus, you built the same building twice.

Well, I ask does not that totally negate the entire reason behind the LEEDS certification? Further, we should be concerned that unions are joining in and pressing local, state and Federal Governments to require LEEDS certification for new buildings and lobbying politicians to give tax incentives. Personally, I believe that energy efficient building is wise, but if it is so good it does not need to be subsidized.

The free markets will choose LEEDS because tenants and building owners demand it to save on energy costs. And we need to temper the building materials with strength in Earthquake Risk regions, especially in California that is over do for an 8.0 otherwise we will completely defeat the purpose and theory behind LEEDS. Think on this.

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LEED Building Free Help and Tips to Pass the Exam

Green construction is something increasingly deemed worthy of recognition by society in the form of various programs and incentives to encourage green construction practices and products. The desire to reward green projects entails a need to track them. And that has led to the creation of new monitoring and counting systems in the form of certificates and accreditations. Armed with those forms of recognition, government agencies as well as private holders are able to offer rewards and incentives both for projects that involve public funding and for private projects that may be subject to local permitting, compliance or other regulatory or community oversight. The most robust and rapid growing program that captures at least some significant portion of green building activity is the LEED certification program administrated by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to “… promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work.” To accomplish this, the LEED program creates a protocol by which builders can qualify for credits extremely towards some level of LEED certification.

That certification is then – hopefully and increasingly – recognized by local, state or federal government and then rewarded in some way – typically through tax breaks, rebates, grants, expedited permitting and other such incentives. Not only does the LEED program provide yet another tool for measuring green building activity but it is particularly useful for our specific purposes. Unlike market segmentation and forecasting based primarily on attempts to measure the revenues earned by the various manufacturers and suppliers of green building materials, an analysis of LEED programs and projects can point more directly to opportunities for green builders and material suppliers. While traditional segmentation and “sell side” revenue counts is important for identifying and quantifying market values ​​and trends in specific market segments, such information does not tell us enough about where specific sales opportunities are likely to be found.

This is especially true in a rapidly growing market where virtually all observers agree that sufficient opportunity exists in virtually every market segment and that the incentives for participating in the market are already quite clear. In such a market, green builders, manufacturers and investors are less concerned with issues of market share or competitive position and instead tend to be focused on precisely where to point their sales and marketing resources. For these reasons, this report takes a project perspective that focuses on the “buy side” of the market where sales can be pursued and realized. There is no better barometer of the “buy side” of the market than USGBC's LEED data. But exactly how good is it? While it is clear that the LEED program is the leading tool for recognizing green building activity, it is less clear exactly how much of the total green building materials market is accounted for by LEED projects. Surely there are many green building projects that never apply for or receive LEED certification. SBI estimates that the USGBC will certify close to 4,000 projects in 2007. With estimates of the total green building market starting at approximately $ 20 billion in 2006, and LEED-certified projects representing a green building materials value of approximately $ 15 billion, LEED projects would appear to account for approximately 75% of total green building revenues.

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The Future of LEED Certification and Green Building Training Programs

The desire to reward green projects entails a need to track them. And that has led to the creation of new monitoring and counting systems in the form of certificates and accreditations. Armed with those forms of recognition, government agencies as well as private holders are then able to offer rewards and incentives both for projects that involve public funding and for private projects that may be subject to local permitting, compliance or other regulatory or community oversight. The most robust and rapid growing program that captures at least some significant portion of green building activity is the LEED certification program administrated by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

The LEED certification program has grown very quickly since its inception in 2000. Accounting for approximately 30% of all green building projects – and growing at approximately 30% annually – government agencies have been major buyers of green buildings and associated materials. Government agencies tend to mandate green building standards for themselves and for projects that fund before they mandate (if ever) green building standards or incentives for any private entities that may have regulatory influence over. Although government's share of total green building projects will eventually decline over time as non-governmental owners pick up steam, government projects will continue to help drive the industry as more and more agencies establish programs and mandates to meet green building goals. Also driving the government green building market will be the obsolescence and reconstruction of government buildings, many of which are approaching the end of their lifecycles.

Twelve federal agencies have adopted internal programs or policies that promote green building practices under the LEED system. These programs will surely grow and expand to other agencies in the future. As a tax, license, permit and fee-collecting entity, the federal government is also in an excellent position to create incentives for private sector green building – via LEED or any other program. Although the USGBC's LEED program was originally catalyzed in part by a federal grant, there are currently no federal-level programs intended to encourage LEED adherence. Twenty one states have programs in place that require LEED participation for state agencies or state-funded construction. In addition, Maryland, Nevada, New York and Oregon offer incentives (tax reductions) for LEED projects and / or buildings.

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LEED AP New Construction NC V2-2 – Free Help to Pass

The average LEED project size is approximately 150,000 square feet (reflecting the generally large, commercial or public sector nature of LEED projects to date). The USGBC also states an average project cost per square foot of approximately $ 250. This yields an average total project cost of almost $ 38 million per project. With nearly 1,700 LEED-certified projects in 2006, the total green building market – as seen through the LEED lens – approaches $ 65 billion. Of course, the USGBC figures capture total construction expenses, including much more than just building materials, let alone the fundamental product categories that are the main focus of this report.

A general rule of thumb that can be applied to commercial construction projects is that materials make up approximately 45% of total project costs. If we then assume that at least one third of those materials went to satisfy LEED credits or were otherwise green, then just over 15% of total project expenses were for green materials. That translates to a LEED centric green materials market of approximately $ 10 billion. Increasing that number by 50% to account for non-LEED green material sales brings us to a grand total figure of $ 15 billion for 2006 – roughly on par with optimistic estimates and representing a reasonable green materials universe for the $ 2.2 billion subset of green materials addressed in this report.

Virtually every component currently used in commercial or residential construction could have replaced with a substitution that is reliably green compared to the existing technology.

Whether the green product exceeds its predecessor in energy efficiency, recycled content, recycle ability, health benefit or any other criteria, the fact of the matter is that the green market is theoretically almost the same size as the existing, non-green market.

While that process has certainly begun across a range of materials and technologies, we can not touch on all of them in a single report and instead will focus on several major categories of building components where the sheer volume and value of materials demand attention . Each of the product segments listed below represents a target for green alternatives because each represents a significant source of existing revenue for building material vendors, green or otherwise.

By focusing on these major categories, we gain insight into the movement of other, complementary product categories that will generally track and trend along with the leading product segments.

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The Advantages of Building Green

If you are considering building a new house, consider the savings that you'll gain from building a green house. Once you've purchased the Baton Rouge real estate on which you've chosen to build your home, ask your builder about what he or she can do to make your home more energy efficient and green. Not only does it help the environment, it will help your pocket book as well!

Insulation is your number one easiest change that has the largest impact in reducing the energy your home takes to run it. A well insulated home will pay for itself over and over again through the hot summer and cold winter months. You'll see a huge reduction in your energy bills.

The size of your house makes a difference as well. Consider your plans for a home carefully, and decide how much space you really need. Obviously, the larger the home, the more energy it will take to keep it running. You can reduce your costs by building a slightly smaller home.

Windows let plenty of energy escape the home. When it comes to choosing windows for your new home, choose energy efficient windows that not only keep the elements out, but actually work to keep your home protected as well. Low-emission glass actually reflects heat and cold away from the house respectably, which means lower energy costs for you.

A green home is a great way to save money. You will not just be doing your part for the earth, but you'll be saving money every month.

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Estate Agents – Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions relating to the role of estate agents in UK property sales.

What is an Estate Agent?

The term estate agent describes a person or group who is employed to assist with the buying, selling or rental of a property. The majority of property transactions conducted in the UK are made via estate agencies.

What do Estate Agents do?

Typically agencies will offer a variety of services relating to the selling of a property. Most estate agents will begin by valuing the home being sold. After setting a selling price they then will advertise the property for sale. This advertising will take various forms from traditional media such as newspapers and magazines to other sources including the internet. A third service offered by estate agents is to arrange views of the home by prospective buyers.

What fees do they charge?

Traditionally estate agents set their fees at a percentage of the value of the property being sold. Most agents will charge between 1-3% of the selling price of the property. Therefore for a home being sold for £ 100,000 the fee will be in the region of £ 1000 to £ 3000. On the other hand a property being sold for a £ 1 million will incur estate agency fees of £ 10000 to £ 30000.

In recent years a different type of estate agency known as fixed fee has emerged. Fixed fee estate agents will charge the same fee whatever the value of the property being sold. Many home sellers find that with a fixed fee estate agent they can make a significant saving.

Are there any alternatives to Estate Agents?

Although most property sales are made via estate agencies there are other options. An increasing number of home sellers attempt to save money and avoid fees by selling their home independently. There are a number of websites that allow home owners to advertise their property for sale online. A further alternative to is property auctions. There has also been an increase in this type of property sale in recent years. However property sold at auction tend to homes that have either been repossessed or are in need of significant renovation.

How are Estate Agents regulated?

UK agents are not directly regulated although they are expected to comply with the Governments Estate Agency Act. Many agents choose to become a member of a professional body such as the National Association of Estate Agents or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors although there is no legal requirement to do so. An Ombudsman of agents has been set up to help set disputes between estate agencies and their clients.

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The Eco Realtor

I am a big talker and doer when it comes to the environment. I believe that with what we know today, it would be disrespectful and completely unconconscious to not make decisions based on the environment and what we know, especially considering that there are many choices available today. We all need guidance, so here are a few tips for you realtors to make a big impact.

1. Drive a hybrid. Because 33% of CO² that is being produced is from transportation (Sources of CO² in he US as of 2004). This conscious change in vehicles would make the largest impact of all. We spend A LOT of time in our cars and when you are in the market for a new one … think green. For all you show-off realtors who need to have the best of the best, hybrids are very trendy and hip. The choices that are coming out for 2009/2010 are swanky. Google “new hybrids” and you'll see.

2. Recycle and reuse. How many listings do you print off that you end up not using or even keeping? Lots! Please recycle. Or better yet, turn them over and re-print on the good side. I do it all the time. It's my copy and when it is noticed by the buyer, I can brag how I am saving the environment. You'll be saving some coin in your pocketbook too.

3. Use electronics. Instead of driving all over to get signatures, please fax, scan, or email. As long as you pick up the originals in the end, it all works out. You'll not only save emissions from driving, money for gas, but your time as well. Another great electronic device is the PDA (or Blackberry, iPhone … whatever works for you). You'll be saving a lot of trees and you can sync it with your computer making you more organized.

4. Encourage your work to go eco. If they do not already recycle mention it every time you go in. They'll get the idea. Ask to receive notices by email and not by paper. Ask them not to put junk mail into your mail box. Tell them about natural cleaning products. If that does not motivate them, donate some!

Love your work and your environment. Passion goes a long way and so does thinking (and doing) about what type of impact your have. Or …. just ignore the environment, it will go away.

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Turn Over a New Leaf and Resolve to Be Green

With the coming of a new year, we have the chance to better our lives and turn over a new leaf. Why not start by living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Clip this list of green alternatives and see how many you can apply to your daily life. You may be surprised at just how green you can be with very little effort, and who knows, maybe it will be contagious.

Water your garden with a rain barrel. Hook up a rain barrel to your downspout or attach a fancy copper water catcher and start storing water for those hot summer days. Your barrel will weigh over 400 lbs when full, so ensure you find a level place to store it. One quarter inch of rain will yield 200 gallons of water.

Gather your neighbors and start a community garden to grow your own vegetables. This is a great idea especially for people with limited yard space or apartment dwellers.

Set up a compiler and treat your garden to free compost. Fill it up with any non-meat food scraps, vegetable peelings coffee grounds, leaves and grass cuttings. Your plants will love it and you'll be buying less garbage bags.

Plant a tree. Build your own forest by planting trees and seedlings. They look beautiful, provide shade and habitats for animals and birds. They'll even do their part to improve air quality by filtering out pollution and boosting oxygen.

Find alternatives to insecticides. Fight garden pests with organic means, such as dish detergent and water. Take some Ivory Liquid detergent mixed with water at a ratio of one to two percent and spray your plants to coat bugs and suffocate them.

Use solar power to light your walkway. Save money on bulbs and electricity with solar powered garden lights. You'll love the wire-free installation. Where solar is not practical switch to low voltage or LED lighting.

When landscaping, focus on using native species of plants to help stop the spread of invasive, non-native vegetation.

Make a habitat. Help support our feathered friends by hanging feeders or bird houses, set up a bird bath and plant shrubs that bear fruit.

Let nature take care of mosquitoes naturally. Build a backyard bat box and let them feast on between 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour. That sure beats spraying bug repellent.

Remember push mowers? They've become all the rage as an eco-alternative to gas mowers for cutting your lawn. They save money, mess and you get additional exercise.

Do not forget the mulch. Adding mulch to your garden in the winter protects your plants from the cold and in the summer months keeps the soil cool, prevails water loss and helps to control weeds.

Reduce, reuse and recycle every chance you get. It may take some time, but just by being aware you will increase your practice of the 3 “R's”. The next time you go to throw out that old piece of lumber, fencing, or light fixture, stop yourself and take a load to the local reuse store. You may also find that reclaimed lumber fits the bill for your next building project.

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Zero Carbon Rated Houses Exempt From Stamp Duty

On 7th December 2007 the government geve Zero-Carbon rated eco houses below £ 500,000 exemption from Stamp Duty Land Tax. This relief is available on new houses and will continue until 30th September 2012. With households in this country on the increase by 223,000 per year (according to government statistics) and an increasing awareness of 'green living' among the public many property developers have put this firmly on their business plans. We spoke to leading builders of new homes in Cornwall, Percy Williams & Sons who specialize in green building design in the UK and have a unique development: Fairglen in Hayle.

Simon Williams from Percy Williams & Sons explained that the 'Government declaration that Zero Carbon-rated houses were to be exempt from Stamp Duty Land Tax was at first a psychological shot in the arm to us over this project of eco homes, but a close study of the strict definition of Zero Carbon and how we might clear this hurdle ended in disappointment '

A Zero-Carbon Home needs to have energy efficiency in three areas, including heat loss, lodging CO2 emission rate and net CO2 emissions. If they meet the requirements an accredited assessor will inspect the lodging and issue a certificate.

To receive the actual 'Holy Grail' of Zero Carbon is difficult at the best of times, as it requires a building to have a net production of carbon into the atmosphere of zero. At Fairglen in Hayle the houses are almost exclusively efficient for this sort of development, but in addition would need a wind-turbine to achieve the last bit of balancing electrical generation. Because of the sheltered valley location that the site is in the turbine could not have been efficiently done.

With the help of John Peapell Sustainable Solutions, a specialist consultant in this area, Percy Williams & Sons were prepared to pay for a turbine on an existing site elsewhere and then pass the ownership of this to the residents' management company. It would be just as economically feasible in that the savings in Stamp Duty Land Tax could be spent on this, and the house owners would continue to benefit into the future from income from the turbine and green offset credits. Overall an economically and environmentally sound solution.

Unfortunately on examination of the detail of the legislation Percy Williams & Sons found it stipulated that the generation had to be 'hard-wired' to the development, not just owned by it.

'I did rather feel that the goalposts were not where one might expect them to be on this one; seriously any houses will realize this at the moment without huge arrays of photo-voltaic panels or on-site wind turbines which of course restricts their locations to windier and less energy efficient sites. So it is quite safe for the Treasury to offer it 'said Simon Williams.

Percy Williams and Sons are continuing to develop a state of art designed and environmentally friendly homes as this is where their passion lies, maybe the government will reward the public who choose to live in these house and the developers one day?

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